tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC August 14, 2009 1:00pm-2:00pm EDT
good day and welcome to this special edition of "andrea mitchell reports." we're here in cape cod, massachusetts, in hyannis, as eunice kennedy shriver is laid to rest. ♪ >> family and friends said their final good-byes today at a private funeral mass in st. francis xavier church, the same church where eunice worshiped as a child and where her brothers served as altar boys. >> my mother, which i often did, i can't go on without you, i don't know how to live without you. and she would say, you're fine, i've raised you well, now, get out there. i don't want to hear one more
word, get going. your brothers will be nice to you. >> and of course, 23 years ago, maria shriver wed arnold schwarzenegger in this same church. as a devout catholic, eunice kennedy shriver was honored with a full mass, eulogized by her five children, honored by her 19 grandchildren. she is being celebrated at as a passionate humanitarian, forever changing how the u.s. and the world, in fact, treats people with special needs. the special olympic torch led the procession today into the church, where athletes delivered a welcome that moved mourners to tears. noticeably missing today, eunice's brother, senator ted kennedy. he is nearby at the family compound, battling brain cancer. a spokesman for the family said ted kennedy's schedule is, quote, day to day. and right now, eunice's family and close friends are attending private burialed followed by a lunch at the kennedy family compound and a nearby club.
nbc's ann thompson is here with me on the cape. ann, who has known the kennedys so many years, who came from this area and has deep roots here, this is really another one of those moments for hyannis. >> i think so. you saw hundreds of people literally lining south street here, catching -- trying to catch a glimpse of the family. and then when they brought out the casket of eunice kennedy shriver, there was applause. and then as each family drove by for bobby kennedy jr., for caroline kennedy and her family, there was subsequent applause. and people here at the cape really love the kennedys, they're part of the fabric of the land, part of the family. >> and maria shriver spoke, surround by her brothers, they spoke last night at the wake. she spoke, giving the eulogy today, and here is another one of those moments, and it was really just -- just moved you to tears. >> i see her urging my fathers to take me everywhere with my
brothers, including right into a baltimore orioles locker room. and she let me know that there was no doubt in her mind that i could compete, that i should compete, and that i could win. >> maria shriver spoke of her mother as a real leader, a trailblazer for women and for teaching women that they don't have to make choices. she was such a mom. she talked to her kids every day, often during the day, more than once a day. they each described her as their best friend, their partner, and partner in their nonprofit organizations, best buddies and special olympics and save the children. but at the same time, she did everything and she spoke ed cub cigars, wore pants. >> played touch football. but i think what maria said at the beginning of her eulogy, that to the rest of the world, she was a transformative figure, but to us she was simply mummy, and she was our hero. and she said that each of the five children, though there were
five of them, they each felt like an only child, because eunice devoted so much attention to them. and was so involved in their lives and so encouraging in different ways. and here was a woman, the other thing that i thought maria said that was so wonderful, eunice was not afraid to be who she was, even though she wasn't what people expected. she didn't care about her hair, she didn't wauls dress the way she should have, as maria said, she would roll up to the school and maria would want to go hide, because she would have pens and pencils in her hair. you can see that picture. but she was so full of life, so full of momentum. and there was no question that she leaves this great void in their lives. >> and, of course, the program now, the program from today's mass, was filled with wonderful pictures and we will share must have of those as well. as my papers blow away. thank you so much for sharing all of this with us today. and we will have a lot more
about the services for eunice kennedy shriver, and of course, the person who is missing, memorably, was senator ted kennedy, still battling his disease. we'll get more on that in just a few moments. but first now, to the big story at the white house and how the president is trying to gain the upper hand in the health care debate as he heads west to montana, the obama family is on their way to montana right now, where this afternoon the president will be holding a town hall meeting, another town hall meeting to try to sell his plan, what he calls selling the myths of what has been said by the opposition about the plan. it's the big story at the white house. let's bring in nbc news white house correspondent, savannah guthrie. savannah, have they figured out another way to get their message across? it hasn't worked so far, to their satisfaction, or anyone else's. >> reporter: well, look, they know they have a problem. the polls show it, clearly. numerous polls show that support for health care reform is dropping. so what they're trying to do is one thing they have always done, which is put the president out there. they've refined the message.
today's town hall will focus on yet another insurance reform, focusing on what around here they call rescissions, which is the practice of insurance companies when they drop people when they become sick. so that will be the focus of the town hall. we've seen kind of some different stuff on the internet this week. they've got the reality check website, which they say corrects misinformation that's out there. we saw the chain e-mail from david axelrod yesterday, asking folks who received that e-mail to forward it on to other people, to try to get the word out. so there's a lot of different kinds of tacts, but essentially, they still think it's obama himself who's got to get out there and sell this message. so he'll try it again at a town hall out west today. >> savannah, how will this differ, this town hall, from portsmouth, new hampshire, in the way people were chosen. he didn't seem to get a whole lot of pushback. are they trying to open it up more and have more of a real debate going? >> i think there is the potential, today, that we could see something a little less
stayed at this town hall. and the reason is not because of, according to the white house, that they're adjusting their practices in order to get more vocal dissent, but because of the smaller locality, it's montana, they were able to distribute the tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. so in two of these towns, you could walk up and if you got there first, you could get one of these tickets and 80% of the tickets were handed out that way. it's a little looser than what's been done at past town halls in bigger cities where the white house basically gives a website to sign up to local media outlets and they get the word out that way. so we'll see. and i think in some ways, the white house -- the president would view that as an opportunity for him to answer questions. that's what they say is going to ultimately prevail. if they can get the truth out, more information, that it will prevail over some of the misinformation that they say is floating out there. >> and thanks to you, savannah guthrie. i know you'll be reporting tonight on how this goes at the
town hall meeting. as the president tries to find more allies for a number of his programs, let's talk about a new initiative in education and some unlikely allies to the country. an unlikely team is coming together, trying to do something about our failing schools, failing schools across the country at the elementary and secondary level. education secretary arne duncan is joining us now. and you'll be joining reverend al sharpton and former republican house speaker newt gingrich. this is quite a tritrio. what are you trying to achieve with your new allies? >> it's a pretty exciting team, isn't it? >> unlike, for sure. >> it is. but i think it's so important that we come together. and what we're really trying to demonstrate to the country is that nothing is more important than education, and that people from very, very different walks of life that disagree on many different things understand how critically important it is that we dramatically improve the quality of education in our country. our children deserve better than what they're getting today, and if we want to regain our economic competitiveness, we have to educate our way to a
better economy. and so i'm actually though thankful that reverend sharpton and speaker gingrich are going to travel with me to a couple spots around the country to both highlight successes, but also talk about the very real challenges that we face as a country. >> the president spoke about this unlikely team of al sharpton and newt gingrich at the 100th anniversary celebration for the naacp. let's watch. >> if al sharpton, mike bloomberg, and newt gingrich can agree that we need to solve the education problem, then that's something all of america can agree we can solve. those guys came into my office. sitting in the oval office, i kept on doing a double take. >> now, one of the big issues here, it's an economic issue, it's an issue of rights, of basic rights, black and latino students are two to three times more likely to have less basic skills. that's a real challenge for us. we're talking about the
workforce of the future. >> absolutely. i absolutely believe the fight for quality education is the civil rights issue of our generation. it's actually about a lot more than education. it's really a fight for social justice. and the dividing lines in our country today is less around race and socioeconomic status than it is around educational opportunity. if children, from whatever background, have a chance to go to grade schools, they can fulfill their dreams long-term and become productive citizens. when children from whatever background don't have the opportunity to go to good schools, they're basically condemned to poverty and social failure. there are no good jobs out there without the minimum of a high school diploma and the president is really drawing a line in the sand. he's challenged us and said by 2020, he wants our country to again lead the role in having the highest percentage of college graduates. we used to be there. we've flatlined, we've stagnated, we've lost our way as a country. other countries have passed us by and we're paying for that right now. it's a huge challenge, but we can unite the country behind us, not just educators, but the
business community, fiwe can al work together and we have a chance to do something extraordinary in the years ahead. >> is your message basically motivational and inspirational, or do you have specific plans afoot? >> we want to challenge the status quo. and frankly, in many places, what we're doing simply isn't good enough. as you know, andrea, we're pushing a very, very strong reform agenda. we want to get dramatically better. we have a dropout rate around the country that is unacceptable. we have to dramatically reduce the dropout rate. we have to increase graduation rate. and all of us have to behave differently. all of us have to step up to the plate, move out of our comfort zones, and give our students the opportunity they desperately need and deserve to fill their tremendous potential. >> well, good luck on your travels, secretary duncan. and if you can keep newt gingrich and al sharpton talking to each other by the end of your trip, come back and talk to us and tell us how you did it. >> i promise you i will.
i'm so glad these guys have agreed to work together. >> thank you very much. safe travels. and here in hyannis today, as her daughter, plmaria shiver put it, eunice kennedy shriver was a fearless voice for the voiceless. and our coverage continues today. olympic gold medallist skater scott hamilton will be joining us. this is "andrea mitchell reports," only on msnbc. i never thought i would have a heart attack, but i did. you need to talk to your doctor about aspirin. you need to be your own advocate. be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. you take care of your kids, now it's time to take care of yourself.
kennedy shriver. just moments ago, i spoke with congressman ed markey of massachusetts about the ongoing health care debate, as well as the man who wasn't here, ted kennedy, and his own health battles. the one person clearly not here is senator edward kennedy. that certainly signals that he is not well enough to attend his sister's funeral. this is a struggle. >> well, you know, they loved each other. they were the pillars that carried the family over the last 30 or 40 years. and i'm sure he wants to be here. the rest of his family was here, vicky and teddy jr. and all the rest of the family were at the service and i'm sure, right now, he is there and thinking about his sister. >> what do we know about his condition and how he is doing? >> well, you know, i'm looking forward to being on the white house lawn at the signing of the health care bill that president obama will actually complete by the end of this year, and i think teddy will be there for that signing.
>> do you think that the president can regain the momentum for the health care bill, despite all this opposition? >> i can already feel it turning around, as people learn more about the bill. there were so many red herrings that were put out in the first couple of weeks, we needed an aquarium to hold them all. and now i think the president's done a good job, one by one, of dispelling a lot of those concerns and i think we are back on track to see a bill passed and put on his desk before the end of the year. >> thank you very much. congressman ed markey. >> glad to be here. thank you. >> thank. >> and that was ed markey, of course, the congressman from massachusetts just a few moments ago, a key figure in both health care and the energy debate. and for more on the health status of senator kennedy and the family legacy, let's bring in msnbc contributor, our own mike barnicle. mike, it's been a tough day for family and friends. you were in the service. >> yeah. >> we've had a lot of losses lately, and this one with the
same funeral mass, it was tough. >> the catholic funeral mass is a celebration of a life lost. we all know that. but it's filled with remembrance for those who are gathered in the church, remembrance of other losses, other people who we've loved and have lost. so it all comes back in a tidal wave of emotion. all encapsulated in an hour and 45 minutes. >> and the extraordinary life of the woman who we were celebrating today, maria shriver talked about her mother. let's listen a little bit about the excentric qualities of eunice kennedy shriver. >> mummy wore men's pants, she smoked cuban cigars and she played tackle football. she would come to pick us all up at at scoot in her blue lincoln convertible, her hair would be flying in the wednesday, there usually would be some pencil s r pens in it. this car would be filled with all the boys and their friends
and she would have on a cashmere sweater with notes pinned to it, and more often than the, the sweater would be covering a bathing suit so she could waste no time jumping into the pool. so when the nuns would announce her arrival, i would run for cover. >> that is such a wonderful word picture. and you can see eunice in all her glory. >> an evening having dinner with eunice shiver was an evening never to be forgotten. and eunice loved family, loved god, loved her extended family, her brothers. she would, after dinner, on occasion, want to play 20 questions, andrea. and she would say, i'll start. she would stand up and say, okay, i got one. and you would say, are you living? and she would say, no. are you a historical figure? yes.
are you a man? yes. are you jack kennedy? yes! how did you get it? >> it's so great. you know, she's, by the way, we should point out that while we've been here since the service, she has now been put to rest. family burial site at st. francis xavier parish, where with the wake was yesterday. and we were told at the grave site, tim, who was chairman of special olympics, of course, following in her place, came forward and invited the special olympians to come forward to the casket, to be closer, and then the mourners all sang bob dillen's that bono had sent. so it all comes together. but the special role that special olympians played here, with the torch as they arrived, loretta clayburne, who i spoke with earlier, and who addressed the church, that was a real moment. >> well, you know, i don't think it's an under estimate or an overstatement to say that eunice shriver changed as many lives as most people in public life ever
do, and could ever comprehend doing. and what she did was, she took a whole host of people who, growing up, we had been used to them living in the shadows. and she brought them into the light. and she made special people truly special and an incredible gift that she gave so to so many around the world. >> had a bigger impact, some would argue, than the political figures who came before her in her family, her brothers. >> yeah. i don't think there's any doubt about that. i think if you want withed to dispel my doubts about that, just show the clips and relive from memory all of the special olympics ceremonies that have been held in shanghai, china, throughout the world, the smaller special olympic events that are held state by state in this country, and you see the enormous impact she has had. and you're right, in many instances, it's well past any elected official ever had. >> and her brother? what do we know about how the senat
senator's doing? >> well, he's obviously having a difficult time. and it speaks to the degree of the difficulty that he's having, the fact that he was not here today to bury his beloved sister. up until about two or three weeks ago when she -- when eunice shriver truly became too ill to perhaps function, senator kennedy, almost every afternoon in a golf cart would be driven up the hill, a distance of about 500 yards, in between his home and the shriver home, where he would have a late afternoon drink, just he and eunice, having a late afternoon drink out on the patio overlooking the nantucket sound in a home, in an area that is filled with so many memories for the both of them. >> it's so poignant and so painful to even think about. mike barnicle, thaurnk you for sharing. >> thank you. >> always good to be with you. and straight ahead, a homecoming long overdue. thousands lining the streets today in florida to salute gulf
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and thousands are paying their final respects to u.s. navy captain michael scott speicher. captain speicher's plane was shot down in the first night of combat during the gulf war in 1991. his remains will runneturn to h hometown of jacksonville, florida, after they were discovered in iraq last. month. michelle kosinski is live in jacksonville, florida. michelle, this is quite a homecoming. >> reporter: it is. in fact, the words the mayor used at the end of his remarks to the crowds of hundreds of people here in front of the memorial wall was, "welcome home, scott." people have waited a long time in this town, his hometown. they never gave up hope that he would be found. 18 years after his plane was shot down in the desert west of baghdad. but still this case is surrounded by questions and
debate. the question is, were his remains that were found just this month buried near his crash site there from the time he crashed? did he die at the scene? or was he indeed taken captive after he possibly ejected from his plane and then reburied at that site later? the family believes that he survived the crash based on evidence they've gotten from the military over the years, and also just the way the crash scene looked. it was just a couple of weeks ago that iraqi civilians came forward and told the military that they witnessed the crash, that his remains were buried at the scene by bedwins in the desert and no one really talked about it now out of fear. the problem is, that site had been looked at many times before, it had been excavated. as i mentioned, there was some evidence that he may have ejected and no body or remains were found prior to this time. the family has vowed to keep up the investigation and they plan to meet with defense officials sometime soon, andrea. >> and i know they really want to get some answers. thank you very much, michelle kosinski in jacksonville,
florida. and back here in cape cod, eunice kennedy shriver is being remembered as a mother, a sister, and a major advocate for people with special needs. her call to service inspired millions around the world, as expressed today by one of her 19 grandchildren. >> grandma, thanks for everything. thank you for encouraging me at all my sport games and for teaching me the importance of community service. >> here with me now is nbc's luke russert. luke, you -- >> how are you, andrea. >> i am fine. this is really a great celebration. >> it is, it is. >> you know the shrivers and the kennedys, you were inside the church. what did eunice shriver really represent? >> well, i loved how the invitation said the indomitable eunice kennedy shriver. that's a good way to describe her. for us, she was someone who was always really hip, even at her
age. she had wyclef john perform in her backyard a few years ago and went into the songs and dancing of it. she was a figure that crossed all generations. i think one thing that we all really have a lasting impact is how we young folks in general sort of never used the word "retarded." it's more, you know, physically challenged. it's a great thing that she was able to do. >> in fact, that was the language -- that was the vocabulary of my childhood, luke. because when we knew people who were "row taetarded" or they ha school for "retarded children," they were separate, not equal, they were always -- >> and it's something that's engrained in a lot of young folks now, is that that word is not good, it's an awful, awful, awful word. almost equated with some of the worst words in history and i think that's a real lasting legacy that will be great for me and my children and many generations to come. >> one of the other grandchildren at the service today spoke about the way she inspired her kids, ordered her kids, demanded that her kids and
grandchildren always think of people of lesser capabilities. watch this. >> thank you, grandma, for making us take it upon ourselves to always bring an athlete into the pool with us, to always throw the ball to the youngest kid on the football field, and to always get a girl cousin to come sailing with us boys. you preached inclusion of all people through your words and your example and taught us all to take on the problems we see in the world with the same fiery, loving passion that you did every day. >> your commitment, dedication, and passion for your sister, rosemary, taught us all the importance of family. but most of all, that people with special needs inspire us to make the world a better place. may we always remember this blessing. >> you know, when you hear these children, one after another, these 19 grandchildren of all ages, and each had a story. because just as with her five children, eunice shriver somehow made each feel special, each feel -- >> she would go out of her way
to make sure that she had a personal relationship with you. for me, she knew that i liked to play golf. and whenever i saw her, she would say, how's that golf game? have you been working hard at it? have you been practicing? and i would say, yeah, because you didn't want to disappoint her. you wanted her to believe in you. it's amazing to have 19 grandkids, all this huge kennedy clan, all together, all praising this one lady, and i did not see any negativity at all this week. there's not a -- you can't say a bad thing about eunice kennedy shriver, you really can't. and it's not over the top to say that. because it really is true. and it's almost, for me, being in that church, it's a snapshot of almost the last 50 years in american history, walking in there. and it was great that we could do it in a positive way. >> luke russert, thanks for sharing your memories. >> thank you, andrea. happy to be here. >> good to be with you. and our coverage to today's tribute to eunice kennedy
shriver will continue next. plus, president obama tries to reclaim the health care debate with two days of town halls out west. we'll get the latest next on "andrea mitchell reports." on health care reform, derailing the debate with myths and scare tactics. desperately trying to stop you from discovering that reform won't force you to give up your current coverage. you'll still be able to choose your doctor and insurance plan. tell congress not to let myths get in the way of fixing what's broken with health care. learn the facts at healthactionnow.org. what do you say to a spin around the color wheel? - to paint with primer already mixed in? - ♪ yeah yeah yeah... - test samples instead of can commitments? - ♪ whoo! - what do you say we dip into our wallets less... - ♪ are you feeling it? - ...and grab ahold of the latest tools out there... - ♪ oh! ...so we can quit all that messing around with extra steps - and get busy turning our doing dials up a notch? - ♪ whoo! ♪ oh!
i promise not to wait as long to go for our ride. zyrtec® works fast, so i can love the air™. president obama's first town hall this week was full of polite, well-mannered audience members, but if about 90 minutes, the president will be greeted by a potentially less friendly audience. this afternoon's town hall is being held in a more conservative state and in a conservative suburb of a red state, montana. nbc's david gregory, moderator of "meet the press," joins me now live from washington. david, what do you expect? how is the white house planning to try to get on top of the debate? >> well, i think that they want to have the president's face actually in front of this debate for the first time, instead of all of the noise and the heat from these town halls come fating the debate, based on the advisers that i've talked to, the president wants to try to
regain control of this. talk about the issues that are really being debated, that are really at the center of what will be the ultimate health care debate come the fall. he's in a position, as you know, andrea, where his approval ratings on health care. and he does look at these numbers. he's admitted that, are down where bill clinton's were back in 1993. he's in a very precarious place, where the debate, if there's a national conversation, it is polarized and it's revolving around this idea of a government takeover, socialized medicine, and is not zeroing in on some of the major areas that he wants to talk about. that's, i think, one of the things he wants to do here, so he doesn't lose the month in terms of the debate, in terms of the mental. >> what does he need to do? is it a different vocabulary, a different kind of speech, interacti ining differently wit people? how can he get back on top of it? >> well, i think, for one thing,
he feels the need to bust some of the myths that are out there, the big death panel discussion that's not part of any bill, being just one example of that. i think the president also has to sort of zero in on what it is he wants to ultimately sell here. he has not committed to one particular vision here. he wants to let congress do its work and he wants to have the flexibility to compromise and still claim victory. but while he's argued for certain principles, i think he has to really make the case for what he wants, a final bill, a final reform package to look like. >> we've seen reporting elsewhere and in "the new york times" that some of the same people are involved who killed bill clinton's health care bill in 1993 and '94, in some of the death panel, you know, vocabulary. is there a big conspiracy out there, or is this just a coming together of like-minded people, who object strongly to what this democratic president and a previous president is proposing?
>> well, i mean, i think that's right. i think there are entrenched interests here against this kind of reform, against a larger government role, to be played, that are, you know, now back involved and trying to find against this. and even some of the details of what a government plan would look like, since we don't know, there's still enough that's opaque about what the actual plan would look like, that it's difficult to know what you're shooting at, if you oppose it, or what to defend if you are defending it. so i think there are some of these same forces. and that should not be surprising. the difference from 1993, there are some of the interest groups, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies who are willing to back some measure of reform, once it finally does take shape. but, again, i think this is where the president has to zero in, try to regain control of the debate and talk about the imperative for reform, as he sees it, get on to a singular message about what it is he's selling. we had heard that in august you
were going to have this concentration on consumer protection against the insurance companies. again, i don't think the president is satisfied that that message is getting through. you know, he'll get a lot of coverage, because he's entering the fray now of these town hall debates. he has an opportunity to shed some light on this. >> it's an awkward time for him to also go on an end of august vacation. these vacations are typical, but they're always a little bit challenging for a white house, especially a white house that has been on the defensive. >> well, right. and trying to set up the debate for the fall. and this was, you know, the downside of missing that deadline, among the downsides, is that you get all of this time for people to go out and vent the way they've been venting and the debate goes in the direction that it's going. but only the president ultimately can pull this back in and try to redirect it. you know, i mean, i think it's striking, where you are in hyannis, and thinking about senator ted kennedy, in addition, of course, to mourning
the loss of eunice shriver. and kennedy's absence is so big, because of his ability to work across the aisle and you just don't have that here. you also have the absence of tom daschle, as somebody who, i think, was heavily relied upon to be able to shepherd this through congress. so that's a bit of the -- what they're dealing with as well. >> and, of course, that exactly tees up what we want to talk about, what you'll be talking about as you lead the discussion on "meet the press," a health care debate. i believe you have tom daschle. who else do you have with you on sunday? >> we have tom coburn, dick army, and rachel maddow as well. we'll also have some perspectives from around the country, including charlie rangel, up in new york. we're going to try to have a civil and informative conversation to understand what the debate is about and what the solutions are. >> all right. david gregory, and if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." thank you so much, david. thanks for being with us. now back to our coverage of the
funeral and the memorial service for eunice kennedy shriver, her legacy will continue through the works of her children, hr grandchildren, her nieces and nephews, including her daughter, maria shriver, who delivered the eulogy today. joining us now from austin, texas, doug brinkley, a professor of history at rice universe in houston and a fellow at the school's baker institute for public policy. doug, good to see you. i know you also are the author of the big teddy kennedy and the wilderness book, the big summer book, a great new history of theodore roosevelt. let's talk today about the kennedys. and what eunice shriver represented in terms of breaking through all of the old myths about people with special needs. >> well, you know, i see eunice shriver as part of a kind of humane reform movement in america that began in the 19th century. i think back to jane adams and wholehouse and chicago when miss adams did so much to help, at
that point, just children and create foster programs and deal with the poor. you later have helen keller in the 20th century dealing with people that are deaf and blind. and by the 1960s, that era of so much going on in the humane movement in civil rights and in hispanic and indiana rights, women's rights, you have miss shriver stepping into the fray and picking up on special needs and continuing to kind of move how humans deal with other humans forward. and it's a very big legacy, because up until the '60s, particularly in the south, people were just put in these mental institutions and locked -- they locked up and the key thrown away. the conditions were horrid. and in 1968, here she is, the death of her brother, robert kennedy, chicago, what you all think of in '68 the hot spot of the democratic convention, and she launches the special olympics, reminding us about this -- the need for us to
change prevailing attitudes towards people that have handicaps or disadvantage. so it's a powerful and elegant legacy she's left. >> doug, when you think about it, also, this legacy lives on through the children, through maria, and the sons. this is how maria shriver describes exactly what was expected of all of the shriver children. >> she'd tell you how proud she was of each of us. and she would tell you about each thing each of us did and then she would ask you for money, for all four of my brothers who run nonprofits. they would probably ask you later, but she would ask you. >> and they were always the fund-raisers in the backyard, back there in the home in bethesda, where she would be raising money for best buddies or one of the other great organizations that her kids were running. this is a different kind of service, different from the political service of jfk and
rfk, but just as meaningful. >> well, of course, just as meanful. and she made fund-raising fun more people. and including the special olympics were fun for the families of the children that participated. and that was part of her genius. that oftentimes, when you think you're being hit up or tapped for money for a cause, peel are hesitant with the checkbook. but she would get people to come and participate, celebrities, well-known people on both sides of the aisle. she was loved on the right as well as the left. and part of it was just her personality. she had gotten so involved with juvenile delinquency and special needs children, and we all know that that was an area that needed attention, and she was the right person taking on the right social reform issue. >> all right. douglas brinkley, thank you so much for joining us from rice university in houston. and still to come, olympic gold medallist scott hamilton joining us.
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i'll never forget the day that i was sick and in the hospital, a call came and it was eunice, saying to me, how do you feel? and i knew i had a friend. through sorrow, through pain. >> loretta clayburne, a special olympic athlete, a close friend of eunice kennedy shriver, who told me yesterday that she thinks she would have been institutionalized had eunice shriver not come along with special olympics. here with me now, olympic gold medallist, scott hamilton, who
is a board member of special olympics. you had your gold in '84, you were first in the olympics in 1980. how did eunice shriver get the idea that people of special needs could have their own olympics? >> well, you know, i really don't know what inspired that as much as her own interest in athletics, her relationship with her sister. i think all of that culminated. she was a very competitive woman. and just hearing today all the stories from her children and her grandchildren about how she really promoted competitiveness and how she wanted the girls to be just as tough as the guys, and just to hear her passion, her strength, her energy, and her integrity. for everybody in that church today, i think we all left wanting to change the world in some way and she makes it all seem so possible. >> when these special olympians first start, how do you encourage them to see the possibilities of what they can accomplish? >> well, it's just opportunity. any of us, given opportunity to participate in something, will jump at the chance, most of us.
and for a lot of special olympic athletes, before special olympics, there really was nothing for them in society. i said the other day that eunice kennedy shriver was a force for a segment of our population that had no advocates. and she embraced this segment of our society and gave them validation, gave them a place, gave them dignity, hope, opportunity. and with all of that, she changed the world. 3 million plus athletes in the special olympics program from countries all over the world and the program is making a huge difference. we're all inspired by it. and to give these human beings opportunity to compete and to see what they accomplish and how they make us all want to be better people and better athletes and better citizens, the movement is really strong and it's based on her. she started it when she was 47 years old. >> which tells you something about different passages in life. kim shriver, who is now head of special olympic, what are the challenges for special olympics
and other nonprofits at a time of recession, where people are less inclined to be generous? >> people are less inclined to be generous? >> law enforcement has stepped up. we still need help. tim's idea was to grow special olympics to 3 million athletes. it's just a fraction of the people that could really be served by this movement. get involved with your local chapter. it's easy to find and whatever you can give. whatever you can give to support this movement is extraordinary because it really is changing the world and making it a better place. eunice was a phenomenal force of nature, an incredible woman and someone that changed our lives profoundly, but innocently, in a way, she just challenges you to do better and i think we all can. >> and you have.
and so what story will be dominating headlines in the next 24 hours? anne con bloout joins us now. >> these are still the main story. obama of course has flown to montana where he's going to be doing a town hall meeting this afternoon. he has another one tomorrow in colorado. there are some suspicions they may get a little more rukous than in portsmouth. the temperature might be turned up, but the question's going to be whether he can change the
discussion, take back the debate. >> is the white house thinking that perhaps they have to be more specific? do they have to fill is vacuum as congress has been working on this legislation and explain more about what the president's bottom line is? >> be more specific at the same time, more general and beat back the misconceptions. they're trying to do three or four things at once and talk about people's self-interest. because he didn't lay out his own health care proposal and there's not one specific one, he's talking around some of the specifics of it, but yes, he's going to try to bring it back to people in the outside yens and tell them what they would get out of this reform. >> what is the strategy in going west? is that you know part of their plan to try to deal with it
geographically? >> he'll be with max baucus today in montana, whose trying to broker some kind of deal in the senate. he's also taking the family along. they're going to go to some of the parks that are free this weekend. >> vacation, but also a good signal to people to go to the national parks and celebrate what we have in america, the best of america. thank you very much. you have a good weekend. that does it for me this hour. john harwood will pick up our coverage next with a special "new york times" edition. i'm andrea mitchell. you're watching msnbc. - ( rock music playing ) - ♪ oh!
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